Boston Beats Bulls with Balanced Attack

The key to pulling off a successful bull ride is by maintaining just the right amount of balance. The Boston Celtics proved such to be the case Saturday night, as they used a balanced attack to ride the Chicago Bulls right out of TD Garden.

The C’s saw six different players score in the teens or above, had four starters dish out four or more assists, and had only two players turn the ball over more than once in a come-from-behind, 114-112 win over the top-ranked team in the Eastern Conference.

Boston’s top six contributors each played more than 29 minutes and, despite playing on the second night of a back-to-back, each one of them stuffed the stat sheet.

Jayson Tatum led the charge with 23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. Jaylen Brown added 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Dennis Schroder logged 16 points, six rebounds, and eight assists. Al Horford recorded 15 points and eight rebounds. Rob Williams notched 14 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and two blocks. And Josh Richardson chipped in with 13 points off the bench.

This wasn’t a game in which Tatum and/or Brown had to carry a significant burden. They and their teammates each took turns lighting up the scoreboard.

Tatum took his turn in the first quarter when he scored 13 points during a four-minute stretch.

Horford enjoyed a four-minute stretch of his own in the second quarter, during which he poured in eight points.

Payton Pritchard got hot right at the end of the third frame, knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers.

When the Bulls went on a run in the fourth, Brown kept the Celtics at bay by scoring seven points during a seven-minute stretch. And Williams closed out the final 31 seconds with four clutch free throws – two to tie the game at 112 apiece, and two more to put Boston in position to win.

“It's great to see everybody contribute,” C’s head coach Ime Udoka said after the game. “With guys being out (such as Marcus Smart), other guys step up to contribute. And I think when we have this balance, we're a much harder team to defend.”

Boston led by as many as 12 points in the first half, but the Bulls battled back and went up by as many as seven points in the fourth quarter. Leading 112-106 with less than 85 seconds remaining, Chicago looked like it was about to walk away with a win until the Celtics went on an 8-0 run to close out the game.

Schroder and Brown hit two key buckets to start off the run before Williams knocked down his clutch free throws. Meanwhile, Chicago missed five field-goal attempts during that stretch, including misses from four different players. DeMar DeRozan, who drilled back-to-back game-winners earlier in the month, missed the game-tying, step-back jumper at the buzzer.

“To credit our guys, they got down a little bit, never hung their heads, continued to fight, and dug their way back out of it,” Udoka said.

Boston has had difficulty digging its way out of similar situations throughout the season, where it’ll gain large leads only to fold down the stretch. Its first matchup against the Bulls on Nov. 1 was a prime example, as it led by 14 points at the start of the fourth quarter only to lose by 14.

However, the C’s seem to be developing better habits of late. They’ve been able to maintain or regain leads, and they’re also playing better in tight games down the stretch. They entered last week with a 2-11 record in games decided by five points or less, but now they’ve won their last two games that have been decided in such a manner.

“We've been in a lot of tough games like this,” Udoka said. “The guys are growing from it, and you can start to figure out what we want to do at the end of games, the shots we want to get.”

Most of those crunch-time shots typically come from Brown and Tatum, but they came from a variety of players Saturday night. In fact, the Jays combined for just two of Boston’s last 13 points.

In this case, a balanced attack was exactly what the Celtics needed to grab the Bulls by the horns and regain control of their victory ride.

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